Published on November 13, 2008
The Three Sisters Anton Chekhov chekhov.us Characters • ANDREY PROZOROV • NATASHA, (his fiancée, afterwards his wife) • PROZOROV'S SISTERS: ◦ OLGA ◦ MASHA ◦ IRINA • KULYGIN (high-school teacher, husband of MASHA) • LIEUTENANT-COLONEL VERSHININ (battery commander) • BARON TUZENBAKH (Lieutenant) • SOLYONY SOLYONY (Captain) • DOCTOR CHEBUTYKIN (Army Doctor) SHOWCASE -- UAF 3sis: Time -- Present Place -- Created World http://filmplus.org/plays/3sisters.html -- original translation * public domain * ACT I -- Birthday Party The house of the PROZOROVS. A living room and large dining room. sunday, midday; it is bright and sunny. The table is being laid for lunch. OLGA, in the dark blue uniform of a high-school teacher, with homework; MASHA, in a black dress, is reading a book; IRINA is a white dress. OLGA. Father died just a year ago, on this very day - your birthday, Irina. It was very cold, snow was falling. I felt as though I should not live through it; you lay fainting as though you were dead. But now a year has passed and we can think of it calmly you are already in a white dress, your face is radiant. (The clock strikes twelve) The clock was striking then too (a pause). I remember the band playing and the firing at the cemetery as they carried the coffin. He was a general in command of a brigade, and yet there weren't many people there. It was raining, heavy rain and snow...
IRINA. Why recall it? (Baron, Doctor and Solyony are at the table in the dining room, playing cards) OLGA. It is warm today, we can have windows open, but the birches are not in leaf. I remember distinctly that in Moscow at this time, at beginning of May, everything was already flower, warm, and everything was bath in sunshine. It's eleven years ago, and yet remember it all as though we had left it yesterday. Oh, dear! I woke up this morning, I saw a blaze of sunshine. I saw the spring, and joy stirred my heart. I had a passionate longing to be back at home again! DOCTOR. The devil with it... BARON. Of course, it's nonsense... (MASHA, with a book, softly whisles a song.) OLGA. Don't whistle, Masha. How can you! (a pause). Being all day in school and then my lessons till the evening gives me a perpetual headache and thoughts as gloomy as though were old. And really these four years that have been at the school I have felt my strength and my youth oozing away from every day. And only one yearning grows stronger and stronger... IRINA. To go back to Moscow. To sell the house, to make an end of everything here, and off to Moscow... OLGA. Yes! To Moscow, and quickly. (Doctor and Baron laugh) IRINA. Andrey will probably be a professor, he will not live here anyhow. The only problem is poor Masha. OLGA. Masha will come and spend the whole summer in Moscow every year. (MASHA softly whistles a tune) IRINA. Oh, God, please, please. Look, look, how fine it is today. I don't know why I feel so light-hearted! I remembered this morning that it was my birthday and at once I felt joyful and thought of my childhood when mother was living. And I was thrilled by such wonderful thoughts, such thoughts! OLGA. You are so radiant today and looking lovelier than usual. And Masha is lovely too. Andrey would be nice looking, but he has grown too fat and that does not suit him. And I have grown older and ever so much thinner. I suppose it's because I get so cross with the girls at school. Today now I am free, I am at home, and my head doesn't ache, and I feel younger than yesterday. I am only twenty-eight.... It's all quite right, it's all from God, but it seems to me that if I were married and sitting at home all day, it would be better... I’d have loved my husband. BARON (to SOLYONY). Come on! You talk such nonsense, I am tired of listening to you. (Coming into the living room) Oh! I forgot to tell you, you will receive a visit today from Vershinin, the new commander of our battery. (Sits down the piano) IRINA. Is he old?
BARON. No, not really. Forty or forty-five at the most. (Softly plays.) He seems to be a nice fellow. He is not stupid... Only he talks a lot. IRINA. Is he interesting? BARON. Yes, he is all right, only he has a wife, a mother-in-law and two little girls. And it's his second wife too. He is telling everyone that he has a wife and two little girls. He'll tell you so too. His wife seems bit crazy, with her hairdo and always talks in a high-flown style, makes philosophical reflections and frequently attempts to commit suicide, evidently to annoy her husband. I’d have left a woman like that years ego. SOLYONY. With one hand I can only lift up half a hundredweight, but with both hand I can lift up a hundredweight and a half or even a hundredweight and three-quarters. From that I conclude that two men are not only twice but three times as strong as one man, or even more. DOCTOR (reading the newspaper). For hair falling out... two ounce of naphthaline in half a bottle of spirit... to be dissolved and used daily... (takes his notebook) Let's make a note of it! No, I don't want it... (scratches it out). It doesn't matter. IRINA. Doctor, dear old Doctor! DOCTOR. What is it, my child, my joy? IRINA. Tell me, why is it I am so happy today? As though I were sailing with the great blue sky above me and big white birds flying over it. Why is it? Why? DOCTOR (kissing both her hands). My white bird. IRINA. When I woke up this morning, it suddenly seemed as though everything in the world was clear to me and that I knew how one ought to live. I know all about it! We ought to work, to toil in the sweat of his brow, whoever he may be, and all the purpose and meaning of his life, his happiness, his ecstasies lie in that alone. Oh, dear! To say nothing of human beings, it would be better to be an ox, better to be a humble horse and work, than a young woman who wakes at twelve o'clock, then has coffee.... Oh, how awful! Just as one has a craving for water in hot weather I have a craving for work. And if I don't get up early and work, give me up as a friend. DOCTOR (tenderly). I'll give you up! I'll give you up... OLGA. Father trained us to get up at seven o'clock. Now Irina wakes at seven and lies in bed at least till nine thinking. And she looks so serious! (Laughs) IRINA. You are used to thinking of me as a child and are surprised when I look serious. I am twenty! BARON. Oh my friend, how well I understand it! I have never worked in my life. I was born in cold, idle Petersburg. I used to be troublesome, but my mother looked at me with reverential awe, and was surprised when other people did not do the same. I was guarded from work. But I doubt if they have succeeded in guarding me completely, I doubt it! The time is at hand, an avalanche is moving down upon us, a mighty clearing storm which is coming, is
already near and will soon blow the laziness, the indifference, the distaste for work, the rotten boredom out of our society. In another twenty-five or thirty years every one will have to work! DOCTOR. I am not going to work. BARON. You don't count. SOLYONY. In another twenty-five years you won't be here, thank God. In two or three years you will kick the bucket, or I shall lose my temper and put a bullet through your head, my angel (pulls a scent-bottle out of his pocket and sprinkles his chest and hands). DOCTOR (laughs). And I really have never done anything at all. I haven't done a stroke of work since I left the university, I have never read a book, I read nothing but newspapers (takes another newspaper out of his pocket). Here I know, for instance, from the newspapers that there was such a person as Dobrolyubov, but what he wrote, I can't say... Goodness only knows... (A knock is heard) There... they are calling me downstairs, I'll be back... (goes out hurriedly, combing his beard). (MASHA, humming, puts on her hat.) OLGA. Where are you going? MASHA. Home. IRINA. How odd! BARON. Leaving a birthday party! MASHA. Never mind.... I'll come in the evening. Good-bye. (Kisses Irina) Once again I wish you, be well. In old days, when father was alive, we always had thirty or forty officers here on birthdays; it was noisy, but today there is only a man and a half, and it is as still as the desert.... I'll go.... I am blue today, glum, so don't listen what I say. (Laughing through tears). We'll talk some other time, and so for now good-bye, I am going. IRINA (discontentedly). Oh, how strange you are... OLGA (with tears). I understand you, Masha. SOLYONY. If a man philosophises, there will be philosophy or sophistry, anyway, but if a woman philosophises, then you may (snap his fingers) -- pull my finger! MASHA. What do you mean to say by that, you, terrible child? (Enter DOCTOR with a samovar; laughter) OLGA (Putting her hands over her face). How awful! IRINA (to Doctor). My dear, what are you thinking about! BARON (laughs). I warned you! DOCTOR. My dear girls, my darlings, you are all that I have, you are the most precious treasures I have on earth. I shall soon be sixty, I am an old man, alone in the world, a useless old man.... There is nothing good in me, except my love for you, and if it were not for I should have been dead long ago.... (To IRINA) My dear, my little girl... I've carried you in my arms... I loved your dear mother. IRINA. But why such expensive presents? DOCTOR. Expensive presents.... Expensive presents... (Enter VERSHININ.)
BARON. Oh! Colonel Vershinin! VERSHININ (to MASHA and IRINA). I have the honour to introduce myself, my name is Vershinin. I am very, very glad to be in your house at last. How you have grown up! My, my! IRINA. Please sit down. We are delighted to see you. VERSHININ. How glad I am, how glad I am! But there are three of you, the sisters. I remembcr - three little girls. I don't remember your faces, but that your father had three little girls I remember perfectly, yes, and saw them with my own eyes. How time passes! Hey-ho, how it passes. BARON. Vershinin has come from Moscow. IRINA. From Moscow? You have come from Moscow? VERSHININ. Yes. Your father was in command of a battery there, and I was an officer in the same brigade. (To MASHA). Your face, now, I seem to remember. MASHA. I don't remember you. IRINA. Olga! Olya! Olga, come! Colonel Vershinin is from Moscow! VERSHININ. So you are Olga, the eldest.... And you are Masha... And you are Irina, the youngest. OLGA. You come from Moscow? VERSHININ. Yes. I studied in Moscow. I began my service there, I served there for years, and at last I have been given a battery here -- I have come here as you see. I don't remember you exactly, but remember you were three sisters. I remember your father. If I shut my eyes, I can see him as though he were living. OLGA. I thought I remembered everyone... IRINA. Oh Vershinin, you have come from Moscow! Moscow! OLGA. We are going to move there, you know. IRINA. We are hoping to be there by the autumn. It's our home town, we were born there.... (both laugh with delight) MASHA (Eagerly). Now I remember! Do you remember, they used to talk of the quot;love-sick majorquot;? You were a lieutenant at that time and in love, and for some reason everyone called you quot;majorquot; to tease you... VERSHININ (laughs). Yes, yes! The love-sick major, that was it. MASHA. You had a moustache then. Oh, how much older you look! (through tears) How much older I... VERSHININ. Yes, when I was called the love-sick major I was young, I was in love. Now it's very different. OLGA. But you haven't a single grey hair. You have grown older but you are not old. VERSHININ. I am in my forty-third year, though.... IRINA. Why are you crying, Masha, you silly girl? (through her tears) I shall cry too... VERSHININ. And what a broad, splendid river you have here! A marvellous river! OLGA. Yes, but it is cold. It's cold here and dark. VERSHININ. No! You've such a splendid healthy climate here... and birches too. Charming, birches... It's nice to live here. The only
strange thing is that the railway station is fifteen miles away and no one knows why it is so. SOLYONY. I know why it is. (They all look at him.) Because if the station had been near it would not have been so far, and if it is far, it's because it is not near. (An awkward silence.) BARON. He likes his own jokes. OLGA. Now I recall you, too. I remember. VERSHININ. I knew your mother. DOCTOR. She was a fine woman, the kingdom of heaven be hers. IRINA. Mother is buried in Moscow. MASHA. Would you believe it, I am already beginning to forget her face. So people will not remember us either... they will forget us. VERSHININ. Yes. They will forget us. Such is our fate. What seems to us serious, significant, very important, will one day be forgotten (a pause). And it's curious that we can't possibly tell what exactly will be considered great and important, and what will seem paltry and ridiculous. Did not the discoveries of Copernicus or Columbus, let us say, seem useless and ridiculous at first, while the nonsensical writings of some wiseacre seemed true? And it may be that our present life, which we accept so readily, will in time seem queer, uncomfortable, not sensible, not clean enough, perhaps even sinful. BARON. Well, perhaps our age will be called a great one. Now we have no torture-chamber.... SOLYONY (in a high-pitched voice). Chook, chook, chook.... It's bread and meat to the baron to talk about ideas. BARON. Listen, I ask you to let me alone... (moves to another seat). It gets boring, you know. SOLYONY (in a high-pitched voice). Chook, chook, chook... BARON (to VERSHININ). But the unhappiness which one observes now - there is so much of it - does indicate, however, that society has reached a certain moral level. You said just now, baron, that our age will be called great; but people are small all the same... (gets up). Look how small I am. (A violin is played behind the scenes) MASHA. That's Andrey playing, our brother. IRINA. He is the learned one of the family. We expect him to become a professor. Father was a military man, but his son has gone in for academia. MASHA. It was father's wish. OLGA. We have been teasing him today. He is a little bit in love. IRINA. With a local girl. She will come in later most likely. MASHA. Oh, how she dresses! It's not that her clothes are merely ugly or out of fashion, they are simply pitiful. A queer gaudy yellowish skirt with some sort of vulgar fringe and a red blouse. And her cheeks scrubbed till they shine! Andrey is not in love with her, he has some taste anyway, it's simply for fun, he is teasing us, playing the fool. I heard yesterday that she is going to be married
to the chairman of our City Council. Andrey, come here, dear, just for a minute! (Enter ANDREY) OLGA. This is our brother, Andrey. VERSHININ. Vershinin. ANDREY. Prozorov. You are our new battery commander? OLGA. Imagine, Vershinin comes from Moscow! ANDREY. Really? Well, then, I congratulate you -- my sisters will let you have no peace. IRINA. Vershinin, see what a pretty picture frame Andrey has given me today! (shows the frame). Made it himself. VERSHININ (looking at the frame not knowing what to say). Yes... it is something. IRINA. And that frame above the piano, he made that too! (ANDREY moves away.) OLGA. He is learned, and he plays the violin, and he makes all sorts of things. In fact he is good all round. Andrey, don't go! Come here! (MASHA and IRINA take him by the arms and, laughing, lead him back.) ANDREY. Leave me alone, please! MASHA. Do you remeber? Vershinin used to be called the love-sick major at one time, and was not a bit offended. [laughs] And I should like to call you the love-sick violinist! IRINA. Or the love-sick professor! OLGA. He is in love! Andrey is in love! DOCTOR (puts both arms round ANDREY's waist). quot;Our hearts for love created!quot; (laughs). ANDREY. That's enough, that's enough! I haven't slept all night and this morning I don't feel quite myself, as they say. I read till four o'clock and then went to bed, but it was no use. I thought of one thing and another, and then it gets light so early; the sun simply pours into my room. I want while I am here during the summer to translate a book. [smiles] You know, our father, the kingdom of heaven be his, oppressed us with education. It’s absurd and silly, but it must be confessed I began to get fatter after his death, and I have grown too fat in one year, as though a weight had been taken off my body. Thanks to our father we all know Spanish, French and German, and Irina knows Italian too. But what it cost us! (Leaves) MASHA. In this town to know three languages is an unnecessary luxury! Not even a luxury, but an unnecessary encumbrance, like a sixth finger. We know a great deal that is unnecessary. VERSHININ (laughs). You know a great deal that is unnecessary! I don't think there can be a town so dull and dismal that intelligent and educated people are unnecessary in it. Let us suppose that of the hundred thousand people living in this town, which is, of course, uncultured and behind the times, there are only three of your sort. It goes without saying that you cannot conquer the mass of darkness round you; little by little, as you go on living, you will be lost in the crowd. You will have to give in to it. Life will get the
better of you, but still you will not disappear without a trace. After you there may appear perhaps six like you, then twelve and so on until such as you form a majority. In two or three hundred years life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, marvellous. Man needs tuck a life and, though he hasn't it yet, he must have a presentiment of it, expect it, dream of it, prepare for it; for that he must see and know more than his father and grandfather (laughs). And you are complaining of knowing too much? MASHA (takes off her hat). I'll stay to lunch. IRINA (with a sigh). All that really ought to be written down... BARON. You say that after many years life on earth will be beautiful and marvellous. But in order to have any share, however far off, in it now one must be preparing for it, one must be working. VERSHININ (gets up). Yes... What a lot of flowers you have! And delightful rooms. I envy you! I've been knocking about all my life from one wretched lodging to another, always with two chairs and a sofa. What I have been lacking all my life is just such flowers... (rubs his hands) But there, it's no use thinking about it! BARON. Yes, we must work. You think the German is getting entimental, but on my honour I am Russian and I can't even speak German. My father belonged to the Orthodox Church... VERSHININ. I often think, what if one were to begin life over again, knowing what one is about! If one life, which has been already lived, were only a rough sketch so to say, and the second were the fair copy! Then, I fancy, every one of us would try before everything not to repeat himself, anyway he would create a different setting for his life; would have a house like this with plenty of light and masses of flowers..., I have a wife and two little girls, my wife is in delicate health and so on and so on, but if I were to begin life over again I would not marry... No, no! (Enter KULIGIN) KULYGIN (goes up to IRINA). Dear sister, allow me to congratulate you and with all my heart to wish you good health and everything else that one can desire for a girl of your age. And to offer you as a gift this little book (gives her a book). The history of our high- school for fifty years, written by myself. An insignificant little book, written because I had nothing better to do, but still you can read it. Good morning, friends. (To VERSHININ) Kuligin, teacher in the high-school here. (kisses MASHA). IRINA. Why, but you gave me a copy of this book at Easter. KULYGIN (laughs). Impossible! If that's so, give it me back, or better still, give it to the Colonel. Please accept it, Colonel. Some day when you are bored you can read it. VERSHININ. Thank you (is about to leave). I am extremely glad to have made your acquaintance. OLGA. You are going? No, no! IRINA. You must stay to lunch with us. Please do. OLGA. Please, stay for lunch. Please.
KULYGIN. Today, gentlemen, is Sunday, a day of rest. Let us all rest and enjoy ourselves each in accordance with our age and our position. The carpets should be taken up for the summer and put away till the winter.... Persian powder or naphthaline.... The Romans were healthy because they knew how to work and they knew how to rest, they had mens sana in corpore sano. Their life was moulded into a certain framework. Our headmaster says that the most important thing in every life is its framework. What loses its framework, comes to an end-and it's the same in our everyday life. (Puts his arm round MASHA's waist, laughing.) Masha loves me. My wife loves me. And the window curtains, too, ought to be put away together with the carpets. Today I feel cheerful and in the best of spirits. Masha, at four o'clock this afternoon we have to be at the headmaster's. An excursion has been arranged for the teachers and their families. MASHA. I am not going. KULYGIN. Masha, dear Masha, why not? MASHA. We'll talk about it afterwards. (Angrily) Very well, I will go, only let me alone, please... (walks away). KULYGIN. And then we shall spend the evening at the headmaster's. In spite of the delicate state of his health, that man tries before all things to be sociable. He is an excellent, noble personality. A splendid man. Yesterday, after the meeting, he said to me, quot;I am tired, Kuligin, I am tired.quot; (Clock stricks twelve. Looks at the clock, then at his watch) Your clock is off. Yes,quot; he said, I am tired.quot; (Sounds of a violin behind the scenes) MASHA (angrily, but so as not to be heard by her husband). Again, damn it, I am to be bored a whole evening at the headmaster's! BARON. I wouldn't go if I were you. It's very simple. DOCTOR. Don't go, my love. MASHA. Oh, yes, don't go! It's a damn stupid life... (goes to the table, DOCTOR following her). SOLYONY (to BARON). Chook, chook, chook... BARON. Enough, Solyony! Leave off! SOLYONY. Chook, chook, chook... KULYGIN. Your health, Colonel! I am Schoolmaster and one of the family here, Masha's husband.... She is very kind really, very kind. VERSHININ. I'll have some of this dark-coloured vodka . . . (drinks). To your health! (To OLGA) I feel so happy with all of you! (IRINA and BARON in the living-room) BARON. What are you thinking about? IRINA. Nothing. I don't like that Solyony of yours, I am afraid of him. He keeps on saying such stupid things. BARON. I am sorry for him and annoyed by him, but more sorry. I think he is shy.... When one is alone with him he is very intelligent and friendly, but in company he is rude, a bully. Don't go yet, let me be by you. What are you thinking of? Look, you are twenty, I
am not yet thirty. How many years have we got before us, a long, long chain of days full of my love for you... IRINA. Don't talk to me about love, please. BARON (not listening). I have a passionate craving for life, for struggle, for work, and that craving is mingled in me with my love for you, and just because you are beautiful it seems to me that life too is beautiful! What are you thinking of? IRINA. You say life is beautiful.... But what if it only seems so! Life for us has not been beautiful yet, we have been stifled by it as plants are choked by weeds... I’m crying. I mustn't do that (hurriedly wipes her eyes and smiles). I must work, I must work. The reason we are depressed and take such a gloomy view of life is that we know nothing of real work.... (Enter ANDREY and NATASHA; she is wearing a pink dress with a green sash.) NATASHA. They are sitting down to lunch already.... I am late... (Steals a glance at herself in the glass and sets herself to rights) I think my hair is all right. (To IRINA) My dear, I congratulate you! (gives her an effusive kiss). You have a lot of visitors, I really feel shy.... Good day, baron! OLGA (coming into the drawing-room). Well, here is Natasha! How are you, my dear? (kisses her). NATASHA. Congratulations! you have such a big party and I feel awfully shy. OLGA. Nonsense, we have only our own people... (undertone, in alarm) You've got on a green sash. My dear, that's not nice! NATASHA. Is green unlucky? OLGA. No, it's only that it doesn't go with your dress and it looks odd. NATASHA. Really? But you know it's not green exactly, it's more a dead color... (In the dining-room they are all sitting down.) KULYGIN. I wish you a good husband, Irina. It's time for you to think of getting married. DOCTOR (to Natasha). I hope we may hear of your engagement soon. KULYGIN. Natasha has got a suitor already. MASHA. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a speech! KULYGIN. You deserve three bad marks for conduct. VERSHININ. How nice this cordial is! What is it made of? SOLYONY. Of cockroaches. IRINA (in a tearful voice). Ugh, ugh! How disgusting! (pause) DOCTOR (to Andrey and Natasha). quot;Nature our hearts for love created!quot; (all laugh). (NATASHA runs out from the dining-room, followed by ANDREY.) ANDREY. Come, don't take any notice! Wait a minute... stop, please...
NATASHA. I am so embarrased... I don't know what's the matter with me and they make fun of me. I can't help it... I can't... (covers her face with her hands). ANDREY. My dear, I entreat you, I implore you, don't be upset. I assure you they are only joking. My sweet, they are all kind people and they are fond of me and of you. Come here to the window, here they can't see us... (looks around). Oh youth, lovely, marvellous youth, don't be so distressed! Believe me, believe me... I feel so happy, my soul is full of love and rapture.... Oh, no, they can't see us! Why, why I love you, I loved you, I don't know. My dear, my sweet, pure one, be my wife! I love you, I love you... as I have never loved anyone before... End of Act I Act II -- No Party The same scene as in the First Act. Eight o'clock in the evening. Behind the scenes in the street there is the faintly audible sound of an accordion. There is no light. NATASHA enters in a dressing- gown, carrying a candle. The house is transparent, all three pairs (Andrey and Natasha, Baron and Irina, Vershinin and Masha) speak at the same time, as if it is one... The same scene as in the First Act. Eight o'clock in the evening. Behind the scenes in the street there is the faintly audible sound of an accordion. There is no light. NATASHA enters in a dressing-gown, carrying a candle; she stops at the door to ANDREY'S room. NATASHA. Andrey! What are you doing? Reading? Never mind, I only just asked... [goes and opens another door and peeping into it, shuts it again]. Is there a light? MASHA. I don't know [a pause]. I don't know. Perhaps it's not so in other places, but in our town the most decent, honourable, and well-bred people are all in the army. BARON. Look, I've got a three-barrelled name. Listen to it, my name is Baron Tusenbach-Krone-Altschauer, but I belong to the Orthodox Church and am just as Russian as you. There is very little of the German left in me -- nothing, perhaps, but the patience and obstinacy with which I bore you. I walk you home every evening. ANDREY [with a book in his hand]. What is it, Natasha? VERSHININ. I'm thirsty. I'd like some tea. IRINA. How tired I am! NATASHA. I was looking to see whether there was a light... It's Carnival, you've always got to be on the lookout in case something goes wrong. Last night at twelve o'clock I passed through the dining-room, and there was a candle left burning. I couldn't find out who had lighted it [puts down the candle]. What's the time? ANDREY [looking at his watch]. A quarter past eight. MASHA. You know, I was married when I was eighteen, and I was afraid of my husband because he was a teacher, and I had only just left school. In those
days I thought him an awfully scholarly, clever, and important person. And now it's not the same, unfortunately.... BARON. And every day I'll come to your office and walk you home. I'll do it for ten years, for twenty years, till you drive me away... NATASHA. And Olga and Irina aren't in yet. They haven't come in. Still at work, poor dears! Olga is at the faculty meeting and Irina at the post office... [sighs]. I was saying to your sister this morning, quot;Take care of yourself, Irina darling,quot; said I. But she won't listen. A quarter past eight, you say? I am afraid our Bobik is not at all well. Why is he so cold? Yesterday he was feverish and today he is cold all over,... I am so anxious! MASHA. I'm not speaking of my husband -- I'm used to him; but among civilians generally there are so many rude, ill-mannered, badly-brought-up people. Rudeness upsets and distresses me: I'm unhappy when I see that a man is not refined, not gentle, not polite enough. When I have to be among the teachers, my husband's colleagues, it makes me quite miserable. IRINA. Well, I'm home at last. ANDREY. It's all right, Natasha. The boy is quite well. VERSHININ. Yes... But, to my mind, it makes no difference whether they are civilians or military men -- they are equally uninteresting, in this town anyway. It's all the same! If one listens to a man of the educated class here, civilian or military, he's worried to death by his wife, worried to death by his house, worried to death by his job... A Russian is peculiarly given to exalted ideas, but why is it he always falls so short in life? Why? MASHA. Why? IRINA. A lady came just now to mail a letter to her brother in Saratov that her son died today, and she couldn't think of the address. So she sent it without an address -- simply to Saratov. She was crying. And I was rude to her for no reason. Told her I had no time to waste. It was so stupid. I must rest. I'm tired. NATASHA. We'd better be careful about his food, anyway. I'm anxious. And I'm told that the guests are going to be here for the Carnival at nine o'clock this evening. It would be better for them not to come, baby. ANDREY. I really don't know. They've been invited, you know. VERSHININ. Why is he worried to death by his children and by his wife? And why are his wife and children worried to death by him? BARON [with a smile]. When you come from the office you seem so young... NATASHA. Baby woke up this morning, looked at me, and all at once he gave a smile; so he knew me. quot;Good morning, Bobik!quot; said I. quot;Good morning, darling!quot; And he laughed. Children understand; they understand very well. So I'll tell them, baby, not to let the Carnival party come in. ANDREY [irresolutely]. That's for my sisters to say. It's for them to give orders, since it's their house. NATASHA. Yes, for them too; I'll speak to them. They are so kind... MASHA. You are rather depressed this evening. VERSHININ. I've had no dinner today, and had nothing to eat since the morning. IRINA. I'm tired. No, I don't like work, I don't like it. NATASHA. I've got yogurt for supper. The doctor says you must eat nothing but yogurt, or you will never get thinner [stops]. Bobik is cold. I'm afraid his room is chilly, perhaps. We ought to put him in a different room till the warm weather comes, anyway. Irina's room, for instance, is just right for a nursery: it's dry and the sun shines there all day. I must tell her; she might share Olga's room
for the time... She's never at home, anyway, except for the night... Baby, why don't you speak? ANDREY. Nothing. I was... Besides, I have nothing to say. VERSHININ. My daughter is not quite well, and when my little girls are ill I am consumed by anxiety; my conscience reproaches me for having given them such a mother. Oh, if you had seen her today! What a fool she is! We began quarrelling at seven in the morning, and at nine I slammed the door. NATASHA. Yes... what was it I meant to tell you?.. VERSHININ never talk about it. Strange, it's only to you I complain [kisses her hand]. Don't be angry with me... Except for you I have no one -- no one... [a pause] That's strange [kisses her hand]. You're a splendid, wonderful woman. Splendid! Wonderful! It's dark, but I see the light in your eyes. [MASHA moves to another chair] I love you -- love you, love you,... I love your eyes, your movements, I see them in my dreams... MASHA [laughing softly]. When you talk to me like that, for some reason I laugh, though I am frightened... Please don't do it again... [In an undertone] You may say it, though; I don't mind... [covers her face with her hands] I don't mind... Someone is coming. Talk of something else. ANDREY. Good evening, my good man. [louder]. I say, you have come late.... Dear old man, how strangely life changes and deceives you! Today I was so bored and had nothing to do, so I picked up this book -- old university lectures -- and I laughed... Good heavens! I'm the secretary of the District Council, I am the secretary, and the most I can hope for is to become a member of the Board! Me, a member of the local District Council, while I dream every night I'm professor at the University of Moscow -- a distinguished man, of whom all world is proud! [to the mirror] Perhaps I shouldn't talk to you. I must talk to somebody, and, my wife, she doesn't understand me. My sisters I'm somehow afraid of -- I'm afraid they will laugh at me... Look, I don't drink, I do not like restaurants, but how I'd enjoy sitting at some small bar at this moment! You sit in a huge room at a restaurant; you know no one and no one knows you, and at the same time you don't feel a stranger... But here you know everyone and everyone knows you, and yet you are a stranger -- a stranger... A stranger, and lonely... [ANDREY to himself in the mirror]. You can go. Take care of yourself. Go... [a pause]. Gone [a ring]. Yes, it's work... [leaves] MASHA. You've grown thinner... [whistles]. And you look younger, rather like a boy in the face. BARON. That's the way she does her hair. IRINA. I must find some other job, this does not suit me. What I so longed for, what I dreamed of is the very thing that it's lacking in,.. It is work without poetry, without meaning... [a knock on the floor]. There's the doctor knocking... [To BARON] Knock back, dear... I can't... I am tired. [BARON knocks on the floor.] IRINA. We ought to do something about it. The doctor and our Andrey were at the Club yesterday and they lost again. Andrey lost two hundred or more. MASHA. [indifferently]. Well, it can't be helped now. IRINA. Two weeks ago he lost money, in December he lost money. I wish he'd hurry up and lose everything, then perhaps we'd go away from this town. My God, every night I dream of Moscow, it's perfect madness [laughs]. MASHA. Natasha must not hear of his losses. IRINA. I don't suppose she cares.
[DOCTOR, who has only just got off his bed -- he has been resting after dinner - - comes into the dining-room combing his beard, then sits down to the table and takes a newspaper out of his pocket.] MASHA. Here he is... has he paid his rent? IRINA [laughs]. No. Not for eight months. Evidently he's forgotten. VERSHININ. Well, if there is no tea, let's discuss something. BARON. By all means. What? VERSHININ. What? Let us dream... for instance of the life that will come after us, in two or three hundred years. BARON. When we are dead, men will fly in space, change the fashion, will discover a sixth sense, perhaps, and develop it, but life will remain just the same, difficult, full of mysteries and unhappiness. In a thousand years man will sigh just the same, quot;Ah, how hard life is,quot; and yet just as now he will be afraid of death. VERSHININ [after a moment's thought]. No, it seems to me that everything on earth is bound to change by degrees and is already changing before our eyes. In two or three hundred, perhaps in a thousand years -- the time does not matter -- a new, happy life will come. We shall have no share in that life, of course, but we're living for it, we're working, well, yes, and suffering for it, we're creating it -- and that alone is the purpose of our existence, and is our happiness, if you like. [MASHA laughs softly.] BARON. What is it? MASHA. I don't know. I've been laughing all day. VERSHININ. I was at the same school as you were, I didn't go to the Military Academy; I read a great deal, but I don't know how to choose my books, and very likely I read quite the wrong things, and yet the longer I live the more I want to know. My hair is turning grey, I'm almost an old man, but I know so little, oh so little! But all the same I think that I do know and thoroughly grasp what is essential and matters most. And how I should like to make you see that there is no happiness for us, that there ought not to be and will not be... We must work and work, and happiness is the portion of our remote descendants [a pause]. If it's not for me, but at least it's for the descendants of my descendants. BARON. You think it's no use even dreaming of happiness! But what if I'm happy? VERSHININ. No, you're not. BARON [flinging up his hands and laughing]. It's clear we don't understand each other. Well, how am I to convince you? [MASHA laughs softly.] BARON [holds up a finger to her]. Laugh! [To VERSHININ] Not only in two or three hundred years but in a million years life will be just the same; it doesn't change, it remains stationary, following its own laws which we have nothing to do with or which, anyway, we'll never find out. Birds, gees for instance, they fly backwards and forwards, and whatever ideas, great or small, stray through their minds, they'll still go on flying just the same without knowing where or why. They fly and will continue to fly, however philosophic they may become; and it doesn't matter how philosophical they are so long as they go on flying.... MASHA. But still, isn't there a meaning? BARON. Meaning... Here it's snowing. What meaning is there in that? [A pause.] MASHA. I think man ought to have faith or ought to seek a faith, or else his life is empty, empty.... To live and not to understand why cranes fly; why children
are born; why there are stars in the sky.... You've got to know what you're living for or else it's all nonsense and waste [a pause]. VERSHININ. And yet you're sorry when your youth is over... MASHA. Gogol says: it's dull living in this world, friends! BARON. And I say: it is difficult to argue with you, friends, Oh, well, I give up... DOCTOR [reading the newspaper]. (news of the day). [IRINA hums softly.] DOCTOR. I really must put that down in my book [writes]. [reads the paper]. IRINA [lays out the cards for patience, dreamily]. (repeats after Doctor) BARON. The die is cast. (to Masha) You know, I've resigned my commission. MASHA. And I see nothing good in that. I don't like civilians. BARON [gets up]. I'm not good-looking enough for a soldier. But that doesn't matter, though... [going into the dining-room]. [NATASHA comes in and is also busy at the table; SOLYONY comes in, and sits down at the table.] VERSHININ. What a cold there is! MASHA. Yes. I'm sick of the winter. I've already forgotten what summer is like. IRINA. The game is working out right... We shall go to Moscow. NATASHA [to SOLYONY] Babies understand everything. quot;Good morning, Bobik, good morning, darling,quot; I said and he looked at me in quite a special way. You think I say that because I'm a mother, but no, I assure you! He's an extraordinary child. SOLYONY. If that child were mine, I'd fry him in a frying pan and eat him. [Takes his glass, comes into the drawing-room and sits down in a corner.] NATASHA [covers her face with her hands]. Rude, ill-bred man! [goes away from him, all look at them] MASHA. Happy people don't notice whether it is winter or summer. I think if I lived in Moscow, I wouldn't mind what the weather was like.... VERSHININ. The other day I was reading the diary of a French minister written in prison. The minister was condemned for the Panama affair. With what enthusiasm and delight he describes the birds he sees from the prison window, which he never noticed before when he was a minister. Now that he's released, of course he notices birds no more than he did before. In the same way, you won't notice Moscow when you live in it. We have no happiness and never do have, we only long for it. BARON [takes a box from the table]. What has become of the sweets? IRINA. Solyony has eaten them. BARON. All? [A phone call] VERSHININ. For me? [Takes the phone.] Yes, of course... [hangs] Excuse me, I'll slip away. I won't have tea. MASHA. What is it? VERSHININ [in a low voice]. My wife has taken poison again. I must go. [Kisses MASHA'S hand] My fine, dear woman... [goes out]. MASHA [by the table in the dining-room, angrily]. Let me sit down! [Mixes the cards on the table.] You take up all the table with your cards. Drink your tea! IRINA. How mean you are, Masha! MASHA. If I'm mean, don't talk to me. Don't interfere with me. DOCTOR [laughing]. Don't interfere, don't interfere! MASHA. You're sixty years old, but you talk rot like a schoolboy! NATASHA [sighs]. Dear Masha, why make use of such expressions in conversation? With your attractive appearance I tell you straight out, you would
be simply fascinating in a well-bred social circle if it were not for the things you say. Je vous prie, pardonnez-moi, Marie, mais vous avez des manières un peu grossières. BARON [suppressing a laugh]. Give me... give me something... I think there is some brandy there. NATASHA. Il paraît que mon Bobik déjà ne dort pas, he's awake. He isn't well today. I must go to him, excuse me. [goes out] IRINA. Where has Vershinin gone? MASHA. Home. Something going on with his wife again. BARON [goes up to SOLYONY with a decanter of brandy in his hand]. You always sit alone, and there's no making out what you think about. Come, let's make peace. Let's have a drink. [They drink.] I'll have to play the piano all night, I suppose, play all sorts of trash... Here goes! SOLYONY. Peace? I haven't quarrelled with you. BARON. You always make me feel as though something had gone wrong between us. You are a strange character... SOLYONY. [declaims]. I am strange, who is not strange! [a pause]. When I'm tête-à-tête with somebody, I'm all right, just like anyone else, but in company I'm depressed, ill at ease and... say all sorts of idiotic things, but at the same time I'm more conscientious and straightforward than many. And I can prove it... BARON. I often feel angry with you, you're always attacking me when we're in company, and yet I somehow like you. What the hell, I'm going to drink a lot today. Let's drink! SOLYONY [drinks]. I've never had anything against you, but I have the temperament of Lermontov. [In a low voice] In fact I'm rather like Lermontov to look at... so I'm told [takes out scent-bottle and sprinkles scent on his hands]. BARON. I have sent in my resignation. I've had enough of it! I have been thinking of it for five years and at last I have come to a decision. SOLYONY [declaims]. quot;Forget, forget thy dreams...quot; [While they are talking ANDREY comes in quietly with a book and sits down.] BARON [kisses ANDREY]. Let's have a drink. Andrey, let's drink to our everlasting friendship. I'll go to the University in Moscow when you do. SOLYONY. Which? There are two universities in Moscow. ANDREY. There is only one university in Moscow. SOLYONY. I tell you there are two. ANDREY. There may be three for anything I care. So much the better. SOLYONY. There are two universities in Moscow! [A murmur and hisses.] There are two universities in Moscow: the old one and the new one. And if you don't care to hear, if what I say irritates you, I can keep quiet... [goes out at one of the doors]. BARON. Bravo, bravo! [laughs] Ladies and gentlemen, I'll sit down and play! Funny fellow that Solyony.... [Sits down to the piano and plays a waltz.] MASHA [dances a waltz alone]. The baron is drunk, he is drunk, the baron is drunk... DOCTOR (to Baron). It's time we were going. Good night. BARON. Good night. It's time to be going. IRINA. Excuse me... what about the party? ANDREY [with embarrassment]. They won't be coming. You see, dear, Natasha says Bobik is not well, and so... In fact I know nothing about it, and I don't care either.
IRINA [shrugs her shoulders]. Bobik isn't well! MASHA. Well, it's not the first time we've had to lump it! If we're kicked out, we must go. [To IRINA] It's not Bobik that's ill, but she's a bit... [taps her forehead with her finger]. Petty, vulgar creature! [ANDREY goes by door on right to his own room, DOCTOR following him; they are saying good-bye in the dining-room.] MASHA. Let's go outside; there we can talk. We'll decide what to do. [Sounds of quot;Good-bye! Good night!quot; The good-humoured laugh of BARON is heard. All go out. There is the sound of singing. ANDREY in his hat and coat, and DOCTOR come in quietly.] DOCTOR. I never had time to get married, because life has flashed by like lightning and because I was passionately in love with your mother, who was married. ANDREY. A person shouldn't get married. You shouldn't, because it's boring. DOCTOR. That's all very well, but what about loneliness? Say what you like, it's a dreadful thing to be lonely, my dear boy.... But no matter, though! ANDREY. Come on, let's go. DOCTOR. What's the hurry? ANDREY. I am afraid my wife may stop me. I'm not going to play today, I'll just sit and look on. I don't feel well. . . . What can you do, doctor, for shortness of breath? DOCTOR. It's no use asking me! I don't remember, dear boy... I don't know... ANDREY. Let's go through the kitchen. [They go out.] [A ring, then another ring; there is a sound of voices and laughter.] IRINA [enters]. What is it? Tell them there's no one at home. They must excuse us. [Enter SOLYONY.] SOLYONY [in perplexity]. No one here... Where are they all? IRINA. They've gone home. SOLYONY. How strange. Are you alone here? IRINA. Yes [a pause]. Good night. SOLYONY. I behaved tactlessly, without sufficient restraint just now. But you're not like other people, you're pure and noble, you see the truth. You alone can understand me. I love you, I love you deeply, infinitely... IRINA. Good night! You must go. SOLYONY. I can't live without you [following her]. Oh, my joy! [Through his tears] Oh, happiness! Those glorious, exquisite, marvellous eyes such as I have never seen in any other woman... IRINA [coldly]. Don't.... SOLYONY. For the first time I am speaking of love to you, and I feel as though I were not on earth but on another planet [rubs his forehead]. Well, it doesn't matter. There is no forcing kindness, of course... But there must be no successful rivals... There must not... I swear by all that is sacred I will kill any rival... O exquisite being! [NATASHA crosses the room with a candle.] NATASHA [peeps in at one door, then at another and passes by the door that leads to her husband's room]. Andrey is there. Let him read. Excuse me, I didn't know you were here, and I'm in my dressing-gown.... SOLYONY. I don't care. Good-bye! [Goes out.] NATASHA. You are tired, my poor, dear little girl! [kisses IRINA]. You ought to go to bed earlier... IRINA. Is Bobik asleep?
NATASHA. He's asleep, but not sleeping quietly. By the way, dear, I keep meaning to speak to you, but either you are out or else I haven't the time... I think Bobik's nursery is cold and damp. And your room is so nice for a baby. My sweet, my dear, you might move for a time into Olga's room! IRINA [not understanding]... Where? [The sound of kids and bells on the street] NATASHA. You would be in the same room with Olga, and Bobik in your room. He is such a darling. I said to him today, quot;Bobik, you are mine, you are mine!quot; and he looked at me with his funny little eyes. [A ring] That must be Olga. How late she is! [NATASHA leaves] [IRINA sits lost in thought; KULYGIN, OLGA and VERSHININ come in.] KULYGIN. Well, this is a surprise! They said hey were going to have an evening party. VERSHININ. Strange! And when I went away half an hour ago they were expecting the Carnival people. IRINA. They've all gone. KULYGIN. Has Masha gone too? Where has she gone? And why is Protopopov waiting below with his car? Whom is he waiting for? IRINA. Don't ask questions... I am tired. KULYGIN. Oh, isn't she a bad little girl... OLGA. The meeting is only just over. I'm tired out. Our headmistress is ill and I have to take her place. Oh, my head, my head does ache; oh, my head! [Sits down.] Andrey lost two hundred roubles yesterday at cards.... The whole town is talking about it... KULYGIN. Yes, I'm tired out by the meeting too [sits down]. VERSHININ. My wife took it into her head to give me a fright, she nearly poisoned herself. It's all right now, and I'm glad, it's a relief. So we are to go away? Very well, then, I'll say good night. (to KULYGIN) let's go somewhere together! I can't stay at home, I absolutely can't... Come! KULYGIN. I am tired. I'm not coming [gets up]. I'm tired. Has my wife gone home? IRINA. I expect so. KULYGIN [kisses IRINA'S hand]. Good-bye! I have all day tomorrow and next day to rest. Good night! [Going] I do want some tea. I was counting on spending the evening in pleasant company... O fallacem hominum spem!... Accusative of exclamation. VERSHININ. Well, then, I must go alone [goes out with KULYGIN, whistling]. OLGA. My head aches, oh, how my head aches.... Andrey has lost at cards... The whole town is talking about it... I'll go and lie down [is going]. Tomorrow I'll be free.... Oh, God, how nice that is! Tomorrow I'm free, and the day after I'm free... My head does ache, oh, my head... [goes out]. IRINA [alone]. They've all gone away. There's no one left. [Music plays in the street, somebody sings.] IRINA [left alone, in dejection]. Oh, to go to Moscow, to Moscow! [Silent Scene between Olga and Vershinin. The clock stikes twelve.] End of Act II Intermission
Act III -- Fire OLGA, MASHA and IRINA. Past two o'clock in the night. Behind the scenes a bell is ringing. It can be seen that no one in the house has gone to bed yet. OLGA [taking clothes out of the closet]. Take this grey dress... and this one... and the blouse too... and that skirt... Oh, dear, what a dreadful thing! Two street are burnt to the ground, it seems... Take this... this... [throws clothes]. The Vershinins have had a fright... Their house was very nearly burnt. Let them stay here... we can't let them go... [Through the open door can be seen a window red with fire; the fire truck is heard passing the house.] How awful it is! And I'm sick of it! Give them everything. We don't want anything, give it all to them... I'm tired, I can hardly stand on my feet... We mustn't let the Vershinins go home... The little girls can sleep in the drawing- room, and Vershinin down below at the baron's.... Damn it, the doctor is drunk and no one can be put in his room. And Vershinin's wife can be in the living-room too. [Enter NATASHA.] NATASHA. They're saying we must form a committee or something for the assistance. Well, that's a good idea. Indeed, we ought always to be ready to help, it's our duty. Bobik and baby Sophie are both asleep, sleeping as though nothing were happening. There are such a lot of people everywhere, wherever you go, the house is full. There is influenza in the town now; I'm so afraid the children may get it... OLGA [not listening]. In this room you can't see the fire, it's quiet here. NATASHA. Yes... my hair must be untidy [in front of the mirror]. They say I have grown fatter... but it's not true! Not a bit! Masha is asleep, she is tired out, poor dear. [suddenly] You spoil people! I like order in the house! [Strokes her cheek.] You are tired, poor darling. Our headmistress is tired! When baby Sophie is a big girl and goes to the high-school, I shall be afraid of you. OLGA. I won't be headmistress. NATASHA. You'll be elected, that's a settled thing. OLGA. I'll refuse. I can't... It's too much for me... [drinks water]. You were so rude just now... Excuse me, I can't endure it... It makes me feel faint. NATASHA [perturbed]. Forgive me, dear; forgive me... I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. [MASHA gets up, takes her pillow, and goes out in a rage.]
OLGA. You must understand, my dear, it may be that we have been strangely brought up, but I can't endure it... Such an attitude oppresses me, it makes me ill... I feel simply unnerved by it... NATASHA. Forgive me; forgive me... [kisses her]. OLGA. The very slightest rudeness, a tactless word, upsets me... NATASHA. Either I don't understand, or you won't understand me. [The alarm bell rings behind the scenes.] OLGA. This night has made me ten years older. NATASHA. We must come to an understanding, Olga. You are at the high-school, I'm at home; you're teaching while I look after the house, and I know what I'm talking about; I do know-what-I-am- talk-ing-a-bout... [stamps her foot] I won't have people annoy me! I won't have it! [Feeling that she has gone too far] Really, if you don't move downstairs, we'll always be quarrelling. It's awful. [Enter KULYGIN, stops.] KULYGIN. Where is Masha? It's time to go home. The fire is dying down, so they say. Only one part of the town has been burnt, and yet there was a wind; it seemed at first as though the whole town would be destroyed [sits down]. I'm exhausted. (to OLGA) My dear... I often think if it had not been for Masha I should have married you. You're so good... I'm tired out [listens]. OLGA. What is it? KULYGIN. It is unfortunate the doctor should have a drinking bout just now; he is helplessly drunk. Most unfortunate [gets up]. Here he comes, I do believe... Do you hear? Yes, he's coming this way... [laughs]. What a man he is, really... I'll hide [goes to the wardrobe and stands in the corner]. Isn't he a ruffian! OLGA. He hasn't drunk for two years and now he's gone and done it... [walks away with NATASHA to the back of the room]. [DOCTOR comes in; walking as though sober without staggering, he walks across the room, stops, looks round.] DOCTOR [morosely]. The devil take them all... damn them all. They think I'm a doctor, that I can treat all sorts of complaints, and I really know nothing about it, I've forgotten all I did know, I remember nothing, absolutely nothing. [OLGA and NATASHA go out unnoticed by him.] The devil take them. Last Wednesday I treated a woman -- she died, and it's my fault that she died. Yes... I did know something twenty-five years ago, but now I remember nothing, nothing. Perhaps I'm not a man at all but only pretend to have arms and legs and head; perhaps I don't exist at all and only imagine that I walk around, eat and sleep [weeps]. Oh, if only I didn't exist! [Stops weeping, morosely] I don't care! I don't care a scrap! [a pause] Who the hell knows.... The day before yesterday there was a conversation at the club: they talked about Shakespeare, Voltaire.... I've read nothing, nothing at all, but I looked as though I'd read them. And the others did the same as I did. The vulgarity! The meanness! And that woman I killed on Wednesday came back to my mind... and it all came back to my
mind and everything seemed nasty, disgusting and all twisted in my soul.... I went and got drunk... [Enter IRINA, VERSHININ and BARON; BARON is wearing a new civilian suit.] IRINA. Let's sit here. No one will come here. VERSHININ. If it hadn't been for the soldiers, the whole town would've been burnt down. Splendid fellows! [Rubs his hands with pleasure.] They are first-rate men! Splendid fellows! KULYGIN [going up to them]. What time is it? BARON. It's past three. It's getting light already. IRINA. They're all sitting in the dining-room. No one seems to think of going. And that Solyony of yours is sitting there too... [To DOCTOR] You had better go to bed, doctor. DOCTOR. It's all right... Thank you! [Combs his beard.] KULYGIN [laughs]. You've been hitting the bottle, doctor! [Slaps him on the shoulder.] Bravo! In vino veritas, the ancients used to say. BARON. Everyone is asking me to get up a concert for the benefit of the families whose houses have been burnt down. IRINA. Why, who is there?... BARON. We could do it, if we wanted to. Masha plays the piano splendidly, to my thinking. KULYGIN. Yes, she plays splendidly. IRINA. She's forgotten. She hasn't played for three... or four years. BARON. There is absolutely no one who understands music in this town, not one soul, but I do understand and I assure you that your wife plays magnificently, almost with genius. KULYGIN. You are right, Baron. I'm very fond of her; Masha, I mean. She is good. BARON. To be able to play so gloriously and to know that no one understands you! KULYGIN [sighs]. Yes.... But would it be suitable for her to take part in a concert? [a pause] I know nothing about it, my friends. Perhaps it would be all right. There's no denying that our director is a fine man, indeed a very fine man, very intelligent, but he has such views... Of course it's not his business, still if you like I'll speak to him about it. [DOCTOR takes up a china clock and examines it.] VERSHININ. I got dirty all over at the fire. I'm a sight [a pause]. I heard a word dropped yesterday about our brigade being transferred. BARON. I've heard something about it too. Well! The town will be a wilderness then. IRINA. We'll go away too. DOCTOR [drops the clock, which smashes]. To smithereens! [Pause; everyone is upset and confused] KULYGIN [picking up the pieces]. To smash such a valuable thing -- oh, doctor, doctor! I'd give you minus zero for conduct! IRINA. That was mother's clock.
DOCTOR. Perhaps.... Well, if it was hers, it was. Perhaps I didn't smash it, but it only seems as though I had. Perhaps it only seems to us that we exist, but really we aren't here at all. I don't know anything -- nobody knows anything. [By the door] What are you staring at? Natasha has got a little affair going with Protopopov, and you don't see it... You sit here and see nothing, while Natasha has a little affair on with Protopopov.[sings]. May I offer you this fig?... [Goes out.] VERSHININ. Yes... [laughs]. How very strange it all is, really! When the fire began I ran home as fast as I could. I went up and saw our house was safe and sound and out of danger, but my little girls were standing in the doorway in their night-gowns; their mother was nowhere to be seen, people were bustling about, horses and dogs were running about, and my children's faces were full of alarm, horror, pleas for help, and I don't know what; it wrung my heart to see their faces. My God, I thought, what more have these children to go through in the long years to come! I took their hands and ran along with them, and could think of nothing else but what more they would have to go through in this world! [a pause] When I came to your house I found their mother here, screaming, angry. [MASHA comes in with the pillow and sits down on the sofa.] VERSHININ. And while my little girls were standing in the doorway in their nightgowns and the street was red with the fire, and there was a fearful noise, I thought that something like it used to happen years ago when the enemy would suddenly make a raid and begin plundering and burning... And yet, in reality, what a difference there is between what is now and has been in the past! And when a little more time has passed -- another two or three hundred years - - people will look at our present manner of life with horror and derision, and everything of today will seem awkward and heavy, and very strange and uncomfortable. Oh, what a wonderful life that will be -- what a wonderful life! [Laughs] Forgive me, here I am airing my theories again! Allow me to go on. I have such a desire to talk about the future. I'm in the mood [a pause]. It's as though everyone were asleep. And so, I say, what a wonderful life it will be! Can you only imagine? Here are only three of your sort in the town now, but in generations to come there will be more and more and more; and the time will come when everything will be changed and be as you would have it; they will live in your way, and later on you too will be out of date -- people will be born who will be better than you... [laughs]. I am in such a strange state of mind today. I have a fiendish longing for life. [sings]. Young and old are bound by love, and precious are its pangs... [laughs]. MASHA. Tram-tam-tam... VERSHININ. Tam-tam! MASHA. Tra-ra-ra? VERSHININ. Tra-ta-ta! [Laughs] [Enter SOLYONY.] IRINA. No, please go, Solyony. You can't stay here.
SOLYONY. How is it the baron can be here and I can't? VERSHININ. We must be going, really. How's the fire? SOLYONY. They say it's dying down. No, I really can't understand why the baron may be here and not me [takes out a bottle of scent and sprinkles himself]. VERSHININ. Tram-tam-tam! MASHA. Tram-tam! VERSHININ [laughs, to SOLYONY]. Let's have a drink. SOLYONY. Very well, we'll make a note of it. I might explain my meaning further, but fear I may provoke the geese... [looking at BARON]. Chook, chook, chook! [Goes out with VERSHININ] IRINA. How that horrid Solyony has made the room smell of tobacco! [Bewildered] The baron is asleep! Baron, Baron! BARON [waking up]. I'm tired, though... The brick-yard. I'm not talking in my sleep. I really am going to the brick factory directly, to begin work... It's nearly settled. [To IRINA, tenderly] You're so pale and lovely and fascinating... It seems to me as though your paleness sheds a light through the dark air... You're melancholy; you're dissatisfied with life... Ah, come with me; let's go and work together! MASHA. Baron, go away! BARON [laughing]. Are you here? I didn't see you... [kisses IRINA'S hand]. Good-bye, I'm going... I look at you now, and I remember as though it were long ago how on your name-day you talked of the joy of work, and were so cheerful and confident. And what a happy life I was dreaming of then! What has become of it? [Kisses her hand.] There're tears in your eyes. Go to bed, it's getting light... it's nearly morning... If only I could give my life for you! MASHA. Please, do go! Really, this is too much... BARON. I'm going [goes out]. MASHA [lying down to Kulygin]. Are you asleep? KULYGIN. Eh? MASHA. You'd better go home. KULYGIN. My darling Masha, my precious girl! IRINA. She's tired out. Let her rest. KULYGIN. I'll go at once... My dear, charming wife!... I love you, my only one! MASHA [angrily]. Amo, amas, amat; amamus, amatis, amant. KULYGIN [laughs]. Yes, really she's wonderful. You've been my wife for seven years, and it seems to me as though we were only married yesterday. Honor bright! Yes, really you are a wonderful woman! I'm content, I'm content, I'm content! MASHA. I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored!.. [Gets up and speaks, sitting down] And there's something I can't get out of my head... It's simply revolting. It sticks in my head like a nail; I must speak of it. I mean about Andrey... He has mortgaged this house to the bank and his wife has grabbed all the money, and you know the house doesn't belong to him alone, but to us four! He ought to know that, if he's a decent man.
KULYGIN. Why do you want to bother about it, Masha? What's got into you? Andrey is in debt all round, so there it is. MASHA. It's revolting, anyway [lies down]. KULYGIN. We're not poor. I work -- I go to the high-school, and then I give private lessons... I do my duty... There's no nonsense about me. Omnia mea mecum porto, as the saying is. MASHA. I want nothing, but it's the injustice that revolts me [a pause]. Go home. KULYGIN [kisses her]. You're tired, rest for half an hour, and I'll sit and wait for you... Sleep... [goes]. I'm content, I'm content, I'm content... [goes out]. IRINA. Yes, how petty our Andrey has grown, how dull and old he has become beside that woman! At one time he was working to get a professorship and yesterday he was boasting of having succeeded at last in becoming a member of the District Council. He's a member, and Protopopov is chairman... The whole town is laughing and talking of it and he's the only one who sees and knows nothing... And here everyone has been running to the fire while he sits still in his room and takes no notice. He does nothing but play his violin... [nervously]. Oh, it's awful, awful, awful! [Weeps] I can't bear it any more, I can't! I can't, I can't! [OLGA comes in and begins tidying up her table.] IRINA [sobs loudly]. Throw me out, throw me out, I can't bear it any more! OLGA [alarmed]. What is it? What is it, darling? IRINA [sobbing]. Where? Where has it all
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